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Amanda America Dickson House

  • "the wealthiest colored woman in America"
  • daughter of a white master and slave mother
    448 Telfair St.
    Augusta, Georgia

    Amanda America Dickson, conceived as a result of her forty-year-old white father's rape of her thirteen-year-old enslaved mother, became the pet of her white grandmother and her father. Though legally enslaved, Dickson received a lady's upbringing, including beautiful dresses, lessons on good manners, cultivated speech, and playing the piano. Everyone on the Dickson plantation called her "Miss Mandy."

    The war made a mighty toll on the Dickson family. As members of the GA 15th Infantry Regiment, William, Jr. was wounded and his left shoulder permanently disabled at Sharpsburg on Sept. 17, 1862. He was wounded again at Gettysburg and served out the rest of the war in the hospital at Athens, GA. where he was captured and paroled on May 8, 1865. David W. died in Winder Hospital at Richmond, VA on November 17, 1862. Joseph was killed at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863 and Quincy was killed at Chickamauga on Sept. 19, 1863. Only William, Sr. and John were left to surrender at Appomattox.

    In 1865 or 1866 Amanda married her white first cousin, Charles Eubanks, a recently returned Civil War veteran who had served in the GA 12th Cavalry Regiment. They had two sons: Julian Henry (1866-1937), who married Eva Walton, the daughter of Isabella and George Walton of Augusta; and Charles Green (1870-ca. 1900), who married Kate Holsey, the daughter of Harriet and Bishop Lucius Holsey of Augusta. Like Amanda, Bishop Holsey was the son of a white owner and black slave mother. Paine college was the brainchild of Bishop Holsey, who first expressed the idea for the College in 1869. Bishop Holsey asked leaders in the Methodist Episcopal Church South to help establish a school to train Negro teachers and preachers so that they might in turn appropriately address the educational and spiritual needs of the people newly freed. Leaders in the ME Church South agreed, and Paine Institute came into being.

    Amanda left Eubanks in 1870 and with her sons returned to her father's plantation in Hancock County. At that time she and her children took the last name of Dickson.

    From 1876 to 1878 she left the plantation to attend the Normal School of Atlanta University. In the winter of 1885 David Dickson died, leaving the bulk of his estate to Amanda and subsequently to her children after her death. Executors appraised the estate, which included 17,000 acres of land in Hancock and Washington counties, at $309,000. In his will David Dickson stated that the administration of his estate was to be left to the sound judgment and unlimited discretion of Amanda Dickson without interference from any quarter, including any husband she might have. A host of David Dickson's white relatives contested the will, but the superior court of Hancock County ruled in favor of Amanda in November 1885. The disgruntled relatives then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court decision in 1887. The higher court stated that the "rights of each race are controlled and governed by the same enactments or principles of law"—in other words, whatever rights and privileges belonged to a bastard white child belonged to a mixed-race child as well.

    Before the supreme court decision, Dickson purchased this house at 452 Telfair Street, in the wealthiest section of the city. By the time the courts settled the Dickson will case, she had firmly ensconced herself in this new home and decorated it with Brussels carpets, oil paintings, a walnut dining room table and chairs, and books. While white Georgians were establishing segregation as the ruling social order in the public sphere, members of the Dickson family went about their private lives.

    Jonathan Bryant, "Race, Class, and Law in Bourbon Georgia: The Case of David Dickson's Will," Georgia Historical Quarterly 71 (summer 1987): 226-42.
    Kent Anderson Leslie, Woman of Color, Daughter of Privilege: Amanda America Dickson, 1849-1893 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995).
    Kent Anderson Leslie and Willard B. Gatewood Jr., "'This Father of Mine . . . a Sort of Mystery': Jean Toomer's Georgia Heritage," Georgia Historical Quarterly 77 (winter 1993): 789-809.


      © 2007 John Rigdon